Spiritual Friendship (Kalyana Mitta) -
Creating a sangha of friends and fellow travelers
by Melanie Spear, Kalyana Mitta Dedicated Volunteer
“Having admirable people as friends, companions and colleagues is the whole of the holy life.” –The Buddha
The Buddha considered sangha to be vitally important. Joining a group of fellow practitioners can support and inspire your practice. The Kalyana Mitta network is a collection of practice groups throughout the country that bring together members of the Dharma community to study and share practice experiences in a friendly and supportive environment. The Kalyana Mitta network extends beyond California, to states as far away as North Carolina and Washington D.C.
The concept of Kalyana Mitta groups has been gaining momentum in recent years as more people seek out connection to other practitioners in their community. Still, groups are not yet available everywhere. To Jan Rosamond, this was not a deterrent. After reading about the Kalyana Mitta (KM) network on the Spirit Rock website, Jan was inspired to create a network of new KM groups in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.
Jan said,“I had never heard of Kalyana Mitta groups, but stumbled on the concept while 'cruising' the Spirit Rock website, looking for retreats and fantasizing about what it must be like to live in a place where there are actual teachers and retreat centers and lots of people practicing the Dharma. I had been sitting with a small group here in St. Louis for many years, but there was very little interaction between the members. I had gone to retreats at Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Society, but these retreats were always silent, so there was never any chance to meet people. None of my friends in St. Louis were practitioners, so I felt isolated. I didn't have any Dharma buddies."
“As soon as I read about the Kalyana Mitta groups, I wanted to join one, but there weren't any in St. Louis. I contacted one of Spirit Rock’s Kalyana Mitta volunteers who suggested I start one of my own. I didn't really know how, but I started talking to some of the people I sat with and discovered that David Hildebrand had lead a similar type of 'Dharma friends' group several years previously when he lived in North Carolina.”
“David and I started talking about how to form a group in St. Louis and decided to ask for input from the other people we sat with. Word spread and eventually we compiled an e-mail list of over 50 people. We held several meetings to see what topics, times, structures, etc. people we interested in, then took a vote and ended up with enough people who wanted to read and discuss Phillip Moffitt's book Dancing with Life to form two groups. There was a smaller group of people who wanted to investigate topics around nature, the environment and sustainability, so a third group was also started.”
“We held our first meetings in the spring of 2012. We now have two Dancing with Life groups, each with a core group of committed practitioners. David acts as lead facilitator for one of the groups, along with a co-facilitator selected by the group. I facilitate the second group, also with a group-selected co-facilitator. Additionally, I’ve organized a new Kalyana Mitta group, which will focus on listening to and discussing Dharma Seed tapes. I co-facilitate this group with Scott Newell.”
“Since we started this effort, the Dharma community in St. Louis has really come to life. Cafe Sangha, which I started a year ago, plus the Maplewood Metta Sitting Group, which I started six months later, have been an integral part of this new vitality. For me, the outpouring of interest and active participation in these groups has been a tremendous source of joy, confidence and inspiration.”
Jan said, “Not only have I found a wonderful new group of like-minded friends, but I feel deeply immersed in the Dharma, and more committed than ever to my life as a practice. At long last, I've found my ‘Dharma home’.”
Jan is a shining example of ingenuity and the power of creating community. We are so proud of her. Check out her visually stunning and informative website http://dharmatown.org for Dharma resources, commentary on Buddhist study and to learn more about Kalyana Mitta groups in the St. Louis area.
Spirit Rock offers bi-yearly Kalyana Mitta workshops to develop and support KM groups and offer an opportunity for people interested in forming new groups to meet. Daniel Bowling and Dana Curtis led the most recent workshop. You can listen for free at Dharmaseed.org by clicking here.
Our next workshop is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, 2013. James Baraz will lead this half-day program focusing on creating group environments that bring out the natural wisdom of each group member. This program is offered on a dana basis, meaning there is no fee to attend, and you are invited to offer dana (generosity) for receiving the teachings. For more information about this event visit https://www.spiritrock.org/calendarDetails?EventID=3545.
For more information about Kalyana Mitta, contact KalyanaMitta@spiritrock.org or call (415) 488-0164 x325.
image via kalyana-mitta.com